Israel, a very brief Biblical history


The news this week of the terrible attacks on Israel by Hamas is so alarming and disturbing. I declare here that I stand with the innocent people of Israel and denounce the hate and evil of Hamas. I also stand with those who do not allow, “but, Israel started it, Israel deserved it.” That is no excuse whatsoever.

I have heard it said this week that the “moral clarity” is simply that Hamas waged evil on innocent people. I must agree. The “moral clarity” is that this is an atrocity and deserves no support from civil minded people, let alone Christian Christ-like people.

I have known of the unrest and unstable nature of this region all my life. However, when we study the Bible, we see that this region, this birthplace of life and culture, has almost always been a region of unrest and human friction.

I thought it might be helpful and interesting if I tell, in my own words and from my own Biblical studies, a very brief history of Israel. And I mean a very brief history. When I had my theological library in my office as a pastor, I had several books, several inches thick, that gave the History of Israel. This will be nothing like that. But here goes.

From the Bible we learn of the events of this region that happened before time was recorded as we know it. I will have to list them without any descriptions or comments. These events include, of course, creation, the fall of Adam and Eve, then the stories of Cain and Able and Noah and the flood and the tower of Bable.

After the fall into sin, God promised to one day send the savior, who would restore the right relationship between God and His people. This would be Jesus.

Then comes the most significant even in Old Testament Biblical history. This is God’s choosing Abraham to be the father of the great nation which God would use throughout history as His “Chosen People.” In addition, God promised to give Abraham and his descendants their own land, which would be theirs for eternity. This land is what we now know as Israel.

Abraham moved to this new promised land and had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael [corrected]. Isaac’s sons were Jacob and Esau. Jacob “stole the birthright,” and the Chosen People progressed through his blood line. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means Jacob had wrestled with God. His descendants were called The Children of Israel, and, of course, the land would eventually bear his name as well. Note again, God had given this land to these His Chosen People.

The descendants of Esau would be known as the Edomites, and it is commonly held that they eventually became the Palestinian people of today. It is these two peoples that have been at the center of the unrest of the region ever since.

Moving forward with Biblical history, Jacob had twelve sons, with his favorite being Joseph, the next to youngest. His jealous brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. However, after many years Joseph became a ruler in Egypt. I am sorry I cannot tell the story of beloved Joseph here. I must do that at another time.

Eventually, after reconciling, Joseph’s brothers, his father Jacob, and all the Children of Israel moved to Egypt, where they lived well until Joseph died and then the Egyptians enslaved them.

The people always remembered that they were God’s Chosen People and that God had given them a land far away from Egypt, and they waited for a deliverer to come and take them out of Egypt to the promised land.

God eventually gave them their great deliverer. His name was Moses. Through many complicated events, Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, out of slavery, but they were forced to wander in the wilderness for forty years before God allowed them to enter their promised land. During this time, they were also called “Hebrews,” and later “Jews.”

Joshua became their leader and led the battles to re-conquer the promised land, including the most famous, the battle of Jericho.

During their initial years in the land, the people were ruled by a series of Judges, Samson, Deborah and Samuel among them.

Since the neighboring countries had kings, the Children of Israel begged God to give them their own king. In time God granted this and had Samuel anoint Saul as the first king of Israel.

Saul was a good king at first, but God then had Samuel choose David for the next king. All these Biblical stories have “twists and turns,” which I am leaving out here. I can only encourage you to open your Bible and do your own research, and you will be blessed in expanding your knowledge of these important events in history.

Throughout this history, the most important component was God’s relationship with His people, and their relationship with Him. Their worship of God was central to their lives. David’s son Solomon was the king who built the glorious temple in Jerusalem.

Following Solomon there was a line of forty-two kings, many of whom were terrible kings. Both the kings and the people drifted far from their right relationship with God. In response God sent His prophets to deliver His messages to the kings and the people. These prophets included Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Amos, and many others. The kingdom then split into a northern kingdom called Israel and a southern kingdom called Judah.

In rightful and justifiable punishment, God let the Assyrians conquer the northern kingdom and let King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians conquer the southern kingdom, tearing down the temple. The Babylonians took many of the Jews into captivity back into Babylon, so this time was called the Babylonian captivity.

Some time later the powerful Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon and let the Children of Israel go home. Upon returning the people began to rebuild the temple, which had been torn down. Nehemiah was the leader of this re-building.

Years later the Romans conquered the entire region and it became part of the Roman Empire under the Caesars.

It was from under this oppressive rule that the people began again to await the savior whom God had promised to send. This savior would conquer sin and give life and life eternal to God’s people.

God kept His promise and sent His only Son Jesus, who died on the cross to forgive all sin and rose again to give eternal life to all who believe.

One day Jesus will return in His full glory to restore everything to God’s intended perfection. In the meantime, fallen sinful humankind wars against each other and innocent people are destroyed. So, we stand against evil and we pray even more fervently, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

Well, there you have it. Hopefully, this sheds a bit of light on our current events. And hopefully, this renews our faith in God and His promises which He always keeps. Amen!

Dr. Kollmeyer, a thirty-seven-year resident of Fayette County, is a retired Lutheran Pastor. He is available for preaching or speaking if you want a Biblical, traditional, well-gr